KITTANNING – In an effort to recoup some of the money that has been spent over the years to combat the opioid crisis, Armstrong County officials recently signed on to a class action lawsuit against 14 pharmaceutical companies.

The lawsuit, first announced at the Nov. 2 meeting of Armstrong County Commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai, is being handled by law firms in Pittsburgh and New York.

A press release issued last week states that the “deadly opioid crisis has affected the entire country, and particularly Armstrong County.”

“The goal of the lawsuit is to recover all costs associated with the opioid crisis borne by the county taxpayers, including payment for healthcare, pharmaceutical care, and other necessary services and programs on behalf of indigents and otherwise eligible residents, including payments for prescription opioid pain killers manufactured, promoted and sold by the 14 defendants,” the press release states. “Damages also include additional costs to the criminal justice system, the County Health Department, the emergency medical services provided by the county and other incidental expenses related to the opioid crisis.”

The county is working with the Pittsburgh law firm of Robert Peirce & Associates and the New York firm of Marc J. Bern and Partners.

The commissioners said there are no upfront costs to the county, and that the law firms will keep 25 percent of any money recovered in the lawsuit.

County solicitor Andrew Sacco explained that the lawsuit addresses the aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Attorney Robert Peirce said that the defendants “acknowledge that these drugs were addictive and deliberately misled the public and the medical community by failing to disclose the addictive nature of their drugs.”

“As a result of this misrepresentation and failure to disclose the addictive nature of the drugs, the pharmaceutical companies have made literally billions of dollars in profits,” Peirce said.

In his motion to approve the county joining the lawsuit, Skamai said the county had nothing to lose.

“If nothing else, we hope it raises awareness,” he said.

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